Updated: Mar 8, 2022
Amy Dantzler had a very successful career at a global professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people. She had moved up the ladder to an associate consultant when a family health crisis pulled her away from paid work in 2014. Five years later, Amy began the process of determining what she wanted to do next. After a lot of hard work and reflection, and exploring a number of options, she decided to return to her former employer in 2021. Amy took, what we call at The Swing Shift, a boomerang route.
She was recently offered an internal transfer at the company. We're talking here about her journey, including her original expectations about that return, and really how it all happened.
The Swing Shift: Tell us a little bit about what you're currently doing for work, and is it different from what you did before?
Amy Dantzler: Well, right now I am doing a very similar job that I did before my career break. Years ago, I worked on medical, dental and vision benefit plans for employers. From there I moved into a specialty group, working on health and well-being, those extra services and perks that large employers offer their employees, focusing on mental health or certain medical conditions that employees need support with. I was hired back to do the same work in the same group.
The Swing Shift: Now, when you originally considered returning for work, you thought you wanted to look for something different, something outside of your previous employer. Can you talk a little bit about that thought process?
Amy: I did. For whatever reason, when I left in 2014, I really thought I was done. I had a great experience there, but coupled with the family health crisis that we were going through, I just thought I'd end up doing something different. When I started thinking about a return, I had done some volunteer work. So, I was thinking through maybe parlaying some of that into a career. Also, when your family goes through a health crisis, you kind of become an expert in the illness that your family member has. My thought process was maybe I could use that expertise in my return to work.
In that time period, it was really helpful to think through a lot of different options and not just pursue one path. Since I didn't really have a cohesive idea on what I wanted, it helped to throw a few balls in the air and see what happened.
The Swing Shift: Let's talk a little bit about that because we've done some work with you. You pursued quite a few different paths. Can you talk a little bit about the things that you did as you started working on your path back?
Amy: I first met Nancy April 2019, at a conference where she spoke, and then I joined The Swing Shift’s Career Catalyst class in the Fall of 2019. So it was two years from when I started to look to actually landing a role. Granted, there was a global pandemic that kicked off right in the middle of that, which changed things.
But my process took a long time, frankly. My resume was non-existent. Since I had been at one company for so long and had been promoted internally and grew there, I really didn't have a resume. So, I was starting from trying to remember what I worked on and write that down. And my LinkedIn profile was terrible! I needed a lot of time just to work on that. I really took advantage of many of the resources that The Swing Shift highlighted for us. I hired somebody to help me with a resume. I hired somebody to spend an hour with me, giving me interview questions, so I could practice those skills. I really felt like a lot of those resources that were recommended, I needed and I really benefited from them.
The Swing Shift: From day one, you weren't sure where you were going to go, but you were very consistent in at least doing some work all the time, little bits here and there. Right?
The Swing Shift: When you hired someone for interview prep and resume assistance, would you go back and do that again? Or do you think that you had the tools to do that on your own? We get this question a lot since we have a ton of amazing career coaches in our ecosystem that we refer people to. So we’re interested in your thoughts in hindsight.
Amy: I personally felt I did not have the resources to do it myself. I tried to work on my resume, and I got words on paper, but I needed outside help. They did a great job, but it was really for a job that I applied for and then didn't get. So I just kept developing it over time, as I evolved in my thinking and took steps forward to apply for jobs and meet people.
And it was a process, too. It's not like I hired somebody, they spent three hours, the resume was done and I got a job. It was messier than that, for me. So it's helpful, if you're able, to do some work upfront, and be a bit more focused when you do bring in those paid resources, I think. Because then, you can get more bang for your buck.
The Swing Shift: We have to ask, what prompted you to contact your original employer? As you said, you had done a lot of discernment and you had a lot of knowledge and skills in a couple of different areas. What was the original thought there?
Amy: Well, it went down in two parts. First, during The Swing Shift Career Catalyst class, there was an exercise that we were asked to do. Reach out to three people that we worked with in the past, just ask about basic strengths and weaknesses. I reached out to someone as part of that exercise. I was not even sure if they remembered me much, because it had been a number of years. But they did and they provided feedback. That was very helpful, even to just get my own wheels turning, about what my work consisted of and what sort of reputation I had.
Second, closer in that early 2020 timeframe, when I was ready to start applying for jobs, I just flat out reached out to someone that I worked with in my old group and said, "Hi. I'm looking to get back to work. Let me know if there's any openings on the team." It wasn't until almost a year later that there was an opening, but that's the way it happened. I just flat out asked.
The Swing Shift: It's fascinating that the lag time between when you first let people know that you were looking and when something actually popped up, is instructive. Because as you said, it's messy and not a straight line. For some people, it is. But most of the time, it's letting folks know and then as something pops up they say, "Oh, Amy talked to us. We want to talk to her." But many people may feel a little funny about reaching back, especially when you've left thinking, well, I'm not going to go back there. Did it feel awkward reaching out to them, or were you relatively confident in talking?
Amy: The first time I reached out, yes, very awkward. But I would say the second outreach, by that time, I was feeling more confident in what I had to offer. So, I do feel like it was more straightforward at that point. I did worry at first that people wouldn’t remember me. But people don't forget who you are or what you've done.
The Swing Shift: Many people hesitate to return to companies or roles they've had before breaks. Amy, what's your guidance on this? Because you've done it.
Amy: I’ve done it! I would say, it was challenging for sure, but also great to go back to a previous employer because at least I knew some things about the job. It wasn't completely new. A lot of the people had changed. A lot of the work had changed, but I did have a grounding of how the basics of the business and how things worked.
I would say my approach was a combination of humility and courage. Humility in the sense of realizing that I did miss out on almost seven years, so I couldn't come in with complete confidence just to say, I got this, no problem at all. It took some humility to ask questions, and find people to help fill in those gaps. But then also courage, because if I hung onto the humility too long, I wouldn't be able to just do the job. I needed to be confident that I could just go ahead and get started.
There definitely was a ramp up on some new work that the group had gotten into in the seven years I was gone, that I did not have experience in. But it felt great to do something that I knew how to do in the core work.
The Swing Shift: Can you talk a little bit about, inside a company, the role of networking? A lot of people think, well, I've got the job and now I'll just do my job. Can you talk about the notion of talking to mentors or sponsors and the value of that?
Amy: Yes, definitely. That was one of my goals in going back to reconnect with people and to meet new people. There was one sponsor in particular who encouraged me to network internally. My method was that whenever there was a group Zoom where I was seeing new people or meeting new people, and if there was any sort of connection I had, or if I was interested to hear more on something they were talking about, I would set up a meeting with them. I'd simply reach out to say, "Hi. Really enjoyed what you had to say. Can we talk for 5-10 minutes?" I just developed that as a habit. So, that's what helped me get to know people. Especially in the virtual work environment, you don't run into people in the hallway. You just have to do those things. It's really important to take initiative to reach out to connect.
The Swing Shift: What guidance would you offer other people, who like you, are investigating a situation where they've left a role and maybe after some consideration, they're thinking about going back? Do you have some top line guidance for folks?
Amy: I feel like it's easy for me to say what worked for me because it worked out. I do feel like it was a combination of diligence, and continuing to try. And patience, definitely. The other thing is the angle that I came at with networking—it was one of pure curiosity, without an end goal in mind. If I just had any question at all, I would follow that and allow it to be as close as an interactive thing would be in person. It's just getting to know them, getting to know me. Some of them, frankly, ended up being really short. Like, sometimes I would reach out to somebody and after a few minutes we'd be like, "Wow. We probably don't have much in common, business or personal. We wouldn't have anything to talk about, but nice to meet you and best of luck." And you hit the end button on the Zoom. You were like, oh, that was two minutes. Okay, great. But then there were other times when there were very important connections I made. In fact, it was in one of these follow up networking zooms that I found out about the open internal transfer position at the company, and the person I had just met mentioned that I might be a great fit, and encouraged me to look into it. I did and I’m really excited about this next phase of my career path.
Thank you Amy for talking with us and sharing your boomerang experience! We've always admired your consistency in showing up, even when you felt like you didn’t have the time or energy to put forth 100%. We’ve seen firsthand that consistently showing up is what keeps you moving forward in this journey .
Bravo on your new role and we can’t wait to see where your career takes you!
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